Having run very limited miles in June and July I went into this race with managed expectations.
For me it was not a "race" but a supported long run to gauge where my fitness level is at coming back from injury.
The most stressful part of this race wasn't the race itself, but managing the logistics of it. After the race I was going to the SF Giants game so most of my race preparation was spent figuring out where to park, how to get cleaned up after the race, when to meet my cousins at the ballpark, etc.
Although my wave of the Second Half Marathon didn't start until 8:30 am, the buses that shuttled runners from downtown San Francisco to the Start Line in Golden Gate Park ran between 6:30 - 7:00 am. I am like my Dad and prefer to be super early for such things. I parked near AT&T Park at 5:45 am and walked 1.13 miles down the Embarcadero to the buses. The last waves of the First Half and Full Marathons were just being sent off.
The bus transport to GGP went off without a hitch and as soon as I got to the park I hopped in the port-a-potty lines (twice!) then huddled under the heaters that the race had set-up for runners. Only in San Francisco do you need heaters in July.
My coach told me to run the first mile, then stop and stretch out my legs; run to Mile 6 and then take 30-second walk breaks at every mile to the Finish. Apparently this is what you do when your longest training run was only 8.35 miles.
Like my past few races, I ran without my Garmin. At Mile 1 I felt surprisingly good so I didn't stop and stretch. I also already felt overheated and couldn't wait to get rid of my arm warmers. I knew Sandra and Audrey were spectating somewhere in the early miles and when I saw them, I ripped off my arm warmers and threw it at them.
Despite not running anywhere near a PR pace, the first half of the race flew by. The miles seemed to be going by so fast.
As if on cue, my foot started to get numb just as I left the park, near the Mile 6 sign. So I took my walk break and then tried to enjoy my favorite part of the course - running down Haight Street. After grinding through the hills of GGP, the downhill in this area usually feels so good. But not wanting to mess up my recovering IT Band, I decided to be conservative and took my time running down it. It was about this time that I ran into Courtney and was so happy to see a familiar face!
The rest of the miles just clicked by and for the most part, I stayed with my 1-mile run/30-second walk plan. However, I did improvise a bit to time the walk breaks so that they would be on the downhill. Call me paranoid, but I did not want to ruin 8 weeks of physical therapy.
I kept waiting for the "wall" to hit me, but it never did.
I was shocked and giddy happy that I didn't feel tired until Mile 11-ish. And even then, I never felt "like death." Before I knew it, I was at the Finish Line collecting my 20th Half Marathon medal! My official time was 2:19:21.
This race turned out to be so much more than I expected!
Given the circumstances, I couldn't have been happier with how the race went. It wasn't even close to a PR, but that wasn't the goal of the day. I finished the race without feeling any pain on the course. I was also surprised with my endurance level especially since a 6-mile run seemed daunting just a week before the race.
I am even more pleased with how my body has recovered.
After the race I got some ice from the Medical Tent and met up with friends who also raced. I iced my knee, then went to the 24-Hr Fitness that is located in the Embarcadero to stretch, shower and get cleaned up. Post-race soreness started to set-in and by the time I walked down the ballpark stairs after the ballgame my knee (and entire body!) was all kinds of stiff and sore. That evening I kept icing + stretching it. On Monday I took a full rest day and also got a Thai massage which really helped to flush out the DOMS. By Tuesday I felt back to normal with no further damage done.
Now I am feeling optimistic and excited for the next few months of training.
I am accepting the mindset that training is a gradual process that takes time. I know its common sense and something that I already knew, but I am more realistic about this now.
SFM was once again proved what a top-notch (and underrated) race it is.
The course is tough and it will beat you up, but there is no greater satisfaction than crossing its Finish Line. It is such a well-executed race that I hope everyone gets a chance to run! Thank you SFM for another great experience!